Profile of a Maryland Process Server: John Hanna
When he’s not traveling, John Hanna, 63, is at home in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Originally from Missouri, his father was in the Air Force, so John spent his youth in England and France, before his family ultimately moved to Dover, Delaware.
These days, in addition to serving process, John works in the airline industry as a ground security coordinator and spends time with his partner of 12 years — Gemma — whom he used to work with in the airline industry. He also has two sons, ages 28 and 30, who work in the tech field. Coincidentally, the youngest spent a few years working as a server with ABC Legal.
John recently took time out of his busy schedule to tell us more about his life and career as an ABC Legal process server.
What are you passionate about? Family, health, travel (both domestic and international) and providing quality output in whatever I’m doing.
What are your hobbies? Previously active in combat martial arts, but after a few foot operations, scaled back to cardio kickboxing, bike riding and bag workouts at home.
Who inspires you? My partner, Gemma. She emigrated from the Philippines in the early to mid-2000’s after a full management career in the hotel industry over there. She’s the perfect example of the American Dream as far as what she’s accomplished since she moved here. We complement each other quite well and she continues to bring out the best in me.
Tell us something about you that not many people know: I lived on a 42’ yacht for 10 years following my divorce. Not too fun during the cold winter months but overall a good experience.
Size of area you serve (zip codes): Anne Arundel County has 36 zip codes. As business has increased over the years, I’ve whittled it down to 11 so that I can do justice to my caseload in a more consolidated area. At times, I’ve served the entire county, but it covers such a large geographic area that it’s just not practical.
How long as a process server? 13 years
How long with ABC Legal? 10 or 11 years
How many hours per week do you serve? That depends on my caseload, but usually more than 20 hours per week.
How did you get your start? I needed something to stay busy with during my off-hours from the airline. It looked like an interesting field to get into so I answered an ad for a Process Server with another company.
Are there legal requirements to work as a process server in your state? No specific license is required; just over age 18.
What sort of training did you receive from ABC Legal? The Pandemic service changes were the first courses I took, but experience was — and still is — the best teacher. I’ll also sometimes do internet research on service rules if a job originates in another state.
What’s your favorite part of the job? I enjoy interacting with the people — most of the time. I try to approach it as a customer service-type job, where both the clients and the subject are concerned.
What’s your least favorite part of the job? Top floor apartments with no elevators — especially when no one is home.
What are some tips for people getting started as a process server? Be professional in attitude and attire. Treat the subject respectfully (ma’am, sir). Beginning each interaction with a subject in a positive manner will generally guide their reaction to being served.
What’s the most important thing to remember? Don’t react in-kind if the subject says something defensive and spiteful, directed at you personally, when they are served.
What does a typical serve look like? I usually take a picture of the location before the attempt. When I knock on the door and it’s answered, I try to be both pleasant and professional. It doesn’t always happen, but the majority of the time, the subject will actually say “thank you” after they’ve been served.
Do you take any safety precautions? I have a 2” thick metal clipboard that I’ve used to keep between myself surprise appearances by dogs. If I’m supposed to do an evening attempt in a rough area and the environment looks unlit or threatening, I don’t make the attempt and note the reason.
Do you have indicators when it might be a more difficult serve and how does this change your process? As mentioned before, high crime areas, apartment buildings with lights burned out or removed in the alcove, or police responding to a call. I just note the indicators as a hostile environment and leave the area.
Do you face natural disasters? If so, how does it affect process serving? In this area, only floods that accompany hurricanes, but those are few and far between.
How are you managing during the pandemic? I had a few months where the courts were closed and there was no business. I gained a few pounds then started working out more and worked additional hours at the airline. Like most folks in this pandemic environment, I’m more health-conscious and (politely) protective of my space.
How has the pandemic changed process serving? It’s sometimes difficult to get someone to answer the door at night while you’re wearing a mask, but it does ease a lot of tension for a person accepting the paperwork if you briefly let them know the pandemic precautions (such as paperwork in zip lock) we are taking to keep them safe.
How has the industry changed since you started? Technology. All the e-service items that are court-related now. Signing affidavits electronically (with the rare hardcopy exception) saves time and gas. Also, printing out our own cases prevents the 100-mile round trip I used to take into the DC office.
How has technology, such as the ABC Legal process server app, impacted your job as a process server? It makes it much more efficient! The continuing updates are really valuable, and the Due Diligence function helps you plan when and where to complete your attempts or serves with the most efficiency. I used to use Microsoft Streets and Trips when I first started out in this business, then I would sit down and plan my route on Google Maps, so the direct routing link was a fantastic addition to the app!
Do you use any other tech tools in your work? Because I drove so much, I felt the need to have a car with blind spot warning, a backup camera, and Android Auto functionality — an excellent excuse to pamper myself and make the job more efficient! At home, I stay up-to-date on my computer for expenses and sometimes case research.
Any lessons learned as a process server? Careers are interrelated as far as dealing with people are concerned. I was able to bring the people and organizational skills I developed in the airline business into my process serving work.
Any good serving stories? Several years ago, I was delivering a summons to a young lady in Washington DC. She started crying and said they had just turned off her electricity, and she didn’t even know how she was going to get around in her house. Then she apologized for losing control of herself, accepted the paperwork, actually said “thank you,” and that she’d find some way to work it out. When I got back to my car, I saw a little Dollar Store flashlight that I hadn’t used in a while, so I grabbed it and went back to her door and knocked. When she answered the door she had a helpless look on her face like, “Oh no, is it going to get worse?” I said, “Maybe this will help a little,” and gave her the flashlight. She started crying again and said thank you.
Another time, I’d already made a few attempts at one residence. The subject’s car was in the driveway, and I could hear movement inside each time. I went over to the neighbor’s house just to get a verbal confirmation that the defendant, an older female, was the resident. The neighbor confirmed residency then let me know that the defendant was extremely hard of hearing, and that I had to really-really knock hard for her to hear it. So, I went over and began knocking on the door much harder than normal so that I could get her attention. After a few moments the enraged defendant came charging out the front door yelling “You don’t have to knock the house down, I’m not deaf!” As I was awkwardly apologizing I happened to catch a glance of the next door neighbor, on his porch, looking at us and having a good laugh at how he’d set me up.
About ABC Legal
With more than 2,000 process servers across the U.S. and 75 countries, ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing provider, as well as the only Acting Central Authority to the U.S. Department of Justice. Our digital approach saves valuable time and resources, and our cloud-based solutions are compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Docketly—an ABC Legal subsidiary—provides appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. Learn more at www.abclegal.com.